Dani Laurion's medical conditions made her unable to walk or breathe without help; that all changed after a healing service in March
LANSING (CNA) -- April 2022 would have marked Dani Laurion’s 13th year confined to a wheelchair. But instead, for the past month or so, Dani has been strolling around Lansing as if those dozen infirm years had never happened.
At a Catholic healing service held at St. Mary Cathedral in March, she felt moved to stand up and walk on her own. In that same moment, she was able to eschew the ventilator that she had worn, constantly, for months up to that point.
Dani says it’s a miracle, and her husband Doug — who has worked as a nurse for the past 37 years — agrees.
“It was the first time in my life that nothing stood between God and I. It was like we were just right there with each other,” Dani recalls of the experience.
Dani has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a blood circulation disorder that affects her heart rate, and which made it almost impossible to stand up on her own, necessitating constant use of a wheelchair. She was diagnosed in April 2009.
In Dani’s case, the condition also affected her breathing, and in 2017 she was given a tracheotomy, leaving her with a hole in her throat and a plastic valve where the ventilator attaches.
In 2021 she was diagnosed with excessive dynamic airway collapse, meaning the ventilator would now have to be her constant companion.
Dani had been making a little progress in walking in the months prior to the healing, but it was slow going. She had gotten to the point where she could stand — shakily and with help in case she fell — for a couple of minutes at a time, Doug said.
By February 2022 she was able, with the help of a walker, to tread timidly across her living room floor. She was determined to improve her walking ability, but her physical therapist apparently was not sanguine about the chances of Dani walking normally again.
In addition, the couple had recently been to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where after a CAT scan Dani had been diagnosed with tracheobronchomalacia, meaning the tissue in her windpipe was soft and weak to the point of collapsing. The hospital told her they wanted to do a bronchoscopy to determine what further action was needed.
While waiting for the call from the hospital to have the bronchoscopy scheduled, Dani and Doug learned about the healing service set to take place at their local cathedral. Their decision to attend that service would change everything for them.
Doug and Dani are both native Michiganders, but grew up in different areas. Dani was raised in a Catholic household; her father had spent eight years in the seminary before marrying.
It was in 2018 when Dani moved to Lansing to be closer to family, after getting her tracheotomy, and she ended up being admitted to the assisted living facility where Doug was working as a nurse. Doug, too, was raised Catholic, but had drifted from the faith after a couple of failed marriages, and was attending Protestant communities at the time.
Dani and Doug became fast friends, and after Dani was hospitalized for an illness in the fall of 2018, Doug began visiting her regularly. After she left the hospital, she went to another nursing facility — different from the one where Doug was working — and their relationship deepened.
In November 2019, Doug and Dani attempted marriage in a secular ceremony with all their friends and family in attendance. Over the course of their relationship, they realized they wanted to get their marriage blessed and to come back into full communion with their faith.
And so in December 2021, after fulfilling all the Church’s requirements, they had their marriage blessed.
“I had no idea whatsoever that I would ever find love, 'cause I just had so much just not going right with me [medically],” Dani remembers.
After the blessing of their marriage, Dani and Doug were back in full communion with the Church, and were very involved in their faith community.
They had been involved in prayer groups at their parish, and occasionally their meetings had involved “praying over” Dani and asking for healing. They had even visited and prayed at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, the resting place of the blessed who was known for his ministry to the sick.
But when they heard about a parish mission being put on at their cathedral in March 2022, which was set to include an evening devoted to prayers for healing, Dani said she was somewhat skeptical. She had always believed in the power of prayer, but an event of that nature devoted to what she saw as “faith healing” seemed to her almost like a “gimmick.”
Still, she decided she wanted to attend, and even invited others to join as well.
Mary Healy, Ph.D., who led the healing service in Lansing, noted that she does not have a “healing ministry” per se, but considers it a “teaching and equipping and preaching ministry.”
She told CNA that for the past eight years, God has led her to study supernatural healing.
“Through that study, I became absolutely convinced that healing miracles, signs, and wonders are meant to be an intrinsic part of the mission of the Church. They're meant to be part of our evangelistic mission,” Healy, who serves on the Pontifical Biblical Commission and teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, told CNA.
Healy’s trust in God’s power to heal people’s bodies has come about, she said, through “a renewal of my mind, which is still ongoing. A deeper revelation of just how much the Lord loves to heal and wants to heal, if we step out in faith and open the door for him to do it.”
Healy said over the course of her ministry teaching people about God’s desire to heal them, she has seen “deaf ears opened,” as well as chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and fibromyalgia healed, among other things. She also noted that one of the focal points of her talks is what she calls “interior obstacles” to healing, chiefly unforgiveness.
During the lecture portion of the parish mission in Lansing, Dani said that Healy made it very clear that she herself does not do any healing; that any healing that takes place is a result of God’s action. That simple acknowledgement, Dani said, helped to clear the path for what happened the next day.
Along with Doug, Dani’s mother, and a friend, Dani sat in the pew at the cathedral with the rest of the congregation and participated in the prayer and worship music that evening, March 15. As she lost herself in the worship music, Dani remembered that Healy had encouraged the attendees to put their hands in the air, like a child “asking your dad to pick you up.”
So, Dani did just that.
“I just put my hands up and I just asked God to just hold me,” she remembered.
Healy, who was leading the proceedings, was giving words of knowledge, a common feature of healing services. Healy described words of knowledge as “a revelation from the Lord about something He's doing, something that you don't get by natural knowledge…You speak out what you think, specifically, the Lord is healing.”
In this case, the word of knowledge that Healy was saying in that moment was: “The Lord is inflating lungs tonight.”
After hearing that, Dani felt moved to remove the portable ventilator tube from the plastic valve in her throat. In typical circumstances, the ventilator tube coming off her throat accidentally could have constituted a minor emergency. But in this case, she removed the tube … and nothing happened. She was breathing normally.
She looked over at her mother, who was crying. Then, from the front of the room, Healy asked people to check out their bodies, and anyone who had experienced a significant, perceptible healing to come forward and share it with the group.
Dani stood up from the pew and moved to the aisle. Doug, fearing she would need assistance, offered her the wheelchair. She instead offered him her hand. “We can just walk,” she said.
“I don’t even know how I knew that I could,” she recalled, but nonetheless she walked up the aisle essentially unassisted — a far cry from the tentative steps she had taken with the walker back home.
“And she hasn't stopped walking,” Doug laughed, noting that she’s been walking everywhere, including up stairs — Doug had never seen her take a stair throughout their entire relationship.
When Healy saw Dani walking to the front of the church without her wheelchair, she was amazed — she had been well aware of Dani’s presence at the lectures, and had noted Dani in her mind as someone who clearly needed prayers for healing.
“I'm sure everybody there was so deeply moved at seeing the Lord do this, because everybody had seen her in the wheelchair,” Healy said.
Afterwards, when Healy got a chance to talk to Dani, all Dani could say, and keep on repeating, was: “This is real.”
Healy says Dani’s miraculous recovery is worth celebrating, and also that she was impressed by Dani’s willingness to go out and, in an evangelistic manner, invite people in the community to the healing service.
To be sure, some of Dani’s ailments remain present. She still has the tracheomalacia, but “it's just not nearly as far along as it was,” she says. For a while after the healing, she did not use the ventilator at all, and today she uses it only at night.
Dani’s physical therapist examined Dani post-healing and was “blown away,” discharging her because she “didn't need any therapy at all.” As for Henry Ford hospital, the doctor there apparently told Dani, “keep doing what you're doing.”
The only real problem with all her walking is that her knees and feet have been painful — not too surprising, after more than a dozen years of unuse — but they’re getting stronger every day, she says.
The couple’s goal, they say, is to dance together, unencumbered, on New Year’s Eve.
Dani has been analyzing what helped her to open herself up to God’s healing that night. She says understanding God’s nature as a healer, and realizing she was deserving of God’s healing, helped her immensely.
“Letting go of the constant feeling like ‘I'm not good enough for that, or I'm not the kind of person that that would happen to’ ... I think we just are afraid to let go, and to say, ‘Yeah, I'm not perfect at all, but I am a child of God and I can be healed like anyone can be healed.’”
The Laurions say they consulted their priest about whether it was appropriate to share the news of their miracle widely, not wanting to sensationalize the story in any way. Dani said she hopes her miracle will help to teach people “how to believe with their heart, not just their head.”
“The fact that everything just kind of fell into Holy Week and Easter, I really think it was God's timing,” Doug said.
Dani is, above all, joyful and happy about her newfound mobility and good health. Her advice? “Pray big.” You don’t have to “tone down” your requests in prayer, she said. God has the ability to do anything, she says — all we need to do is ask.
The Church has long recognized that Christ's ability and willingness to heal people’s physical ailments continues to this day.
“Large numbers of the sick approached Jesus during his public ministry, either directly or through friends and relatives, seeking the restoration of health. The Lord welcomes their requests and the Gospels contain not even a hint of reproach for these prayers,” reads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2000 Instruction on Prayers for Healing.
Healy, and the Church, acknowledge that praying and trusting God to bring healing does not exclude the use of medical treatments.
“Obviously, recourse to prayer does not exclude, but rather encourages the use of effective natural means for preserving and restoring health, as well as leading the Church's sons and daughters to care for the sick, to assist them in body and spirit, and to seek to cure disease,” the CDF wrote.
Healy noted that often a healing involves both ordinary medical means as well as the grace of God.
“A person may recover much faster than the doctors expected, or to a degree the doctors didn't expect, that kind of thing. Healing is very often a combination of the natural and the supernatural,” Healy said.
“But I would only call it a miracle when it's truly extraordinary, truly something that can't be explained medically. The biblical meaning of miracle is ‘mighty deed’ … An evident manifestation of God's power. So it’s not that a miracle violates the laws of nature or something like that, but as far as we can see from our human perspective, it is a mighty deed that demonstrates the supernatural power of God.”
The Lansing diocese has shared the news of the purported miracle widely, but has noted that Catholics ought to reach their own conclusion about the miracle’s veracity, informed by faith and reason. No formal diocesan investigation has been initiated.
“Informed by faith and reason, Catholics are free to reach their own private judgment as to whether a miracle has occurred in this instance,” David Kerr, director of communications for the Diocese of Lansing, told CNA in a statement.
“That being said, however, there are certainly many within the Diocese of Lansing who do believe that Dani Laurion’s healing was, indeed, miraculous and are duly delighted for Dani and her husband, Doug, while also being duly grateful to God for his unfailing goodness and mercy.”
Healy said she considers the scientific veracity of a healing to be less important than the recognition of the joy and love bestowed by God on the person who was healed.
“From a Catholic perspective, what's important is not so much that a miracle is medically verified and indisputable … What's important is that the person knows they've been healed and they know they've encountered the Lord, and he's done it because He loves them. That's the key thing,” she said.
Of course, not everyone who prays for a miraculous healing will receive it from God. But Healy urged perseverance in prayer, citing Christ's admonitions to do so.
“He continually encouraged us to ask and seek and knock. Now, if we're doing that sincerely, the Lord is going to change our prayers over time and align our prayers more and more with his glorious good will,” she said.